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Apprenticeship or Internship: Which one is right for you?

Lex Sanders
March 3, 2020

Alright folks, it’s that time of the year where you (in addition to every 5th year college senior and the over-achieving high school juniors) venture out into the world in the hope that a company will take you in and utilize you as something other than a glorified coffee getter. That’s right, I’m talking about internship season!

Internships can be a vital part for gaining real world experiences and can very likely help you acquire that first full-time job outside of school. But what if you’re not fresh out of college or in the middle of changing careers? What if you have more financial responsibilities and are not able to devote 35 hours a week for a low or unpaid gig? If this is the case, depending on your field of work, perhaps an apprenticeship may be a better fit.

In this article, I will give you an overview of the difference between an internship and an apprenticeship and lay out the pros and cons of each.

Sooo..??? What really is the difference?

My experience with both

To paint a picture, let me share with you my personal experience with the two. I have been both an apprentice and an intern and although some things were the same, the majority of my experiences were very different.

When I was a web design intern, I was just starting my degree and really had no idea if I actually wanted to do web design as a career. It was unpaid and I spent the majority of my time completing online coding tutorials, doing community service activities, and writing weekly logs about my community work experience. My internship was more like… an extension of my school education and not exactly a clear representation of what the web design work force actually is.

Jump forward to my application developer apprenticeship at Crema. I wasn’t just working on coding tutorials, but I was applying what I learned in personal projects and eventually client projects. I had a mentor to go to if I had any questions. I had weekly and biweekly meetings with my mentor and another senior dev to go over my progress. Halfway through, I started sitting in on client meetings regularly to understand the general structure of a product team and by the end I was working on client projects that were being pushed out into production. My apprenticeship was more immersive and required me to apply critical thinking skills to get my tasks done.

Internship Pros

You are not locked in

Internships tend to be during a summer semester or during another short specified length of time (typically no more than a year). So if you have other plans, like wanting to take a few months to travel abroad or would like to try your hand at exploring another career path altogether, you will have that flexibility(depending on the specific company, of course).

Fantastic way to get to know a company and to network

Let’s say you’ve had your eye on a particular company for some time now. Being an intern at that company will give you insight into the culture of a work space and sometimes give you a good idea of the work life balance people tend to have within the company. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to build relationships with professionals in your industry of interest.

Perfect for those who are just looking to “Get their feet wet”

Let’s face it — not everyone knows without a doubt exactly what they want to do with their life right out of college. Even if you are not a college student and have just been teaching yourself new skills online for the past six months, that kind of exposure is still not quite like being in the professional workspace. An internship is quite forgiving in that you can get a brief insight into the field, decide it’s not for you and pursue something else with little loss.

Internship Cons

Tends to be little to no pay

Let’s just put this up front and center. Typically, an internship alone may not pay enough to have you sustain a comfortable lifestyle(if they even pay at all). As such, this could be a really huge deal breaker depending on each person’s life situation.

Not always guaranteed a full time position

Although a lot of internships could eventually lead to the intern getting an offer, it’s not a guarantee that you’ll have a full-time gig by the end. It likely depends on your performance during the internship and whether or not there is a full-time position available. If a full time position is what you are wanting to have by the end of the internship, it is essential to ask about the likelihood of a full-time offer during the interview process.

Not always a comprehensive learning experience

I mentioned before how an internship is good to “Get your feet wet”, but the drawback to that is that you will likely get a very high level overview understanding of your craft. You may get some exposure to how things are done but may not get to work on client projects or tasks that contribute meaningfully to the company

Apprenticeships Pros

Tends to be full time and pays better

I won’t say this is true for every apprenticeship program, but they do tend to be full-time and have a more competitive pay. Again, if you have more financial responsibilities this is a huge plus for you. Full time also means benefits and even potentially some paid time off. Wins all around.

Tends to be a more comprehensive program

A lot of the work an apprentice does is more practical to the job. You are getting a more in-depth, hands-on experience that will challenge you and expand your skillset. You will likely have responsibilities and meaningful tasks that are expected to get done.

They typically lead to a full-time offer

When companies take in apprentices, they use a tremendous amount of resources to train and acclimate that person to the position as well as the company culture. Because the apprenticeship entails a lot more practical work and tends to be longer than an internship, the company gets a better idea of your work ethic and will likely know you are a great fit well before the end of the apprenticeship. Plus, you get a chance to see whether you want to work there full time!

Not typically locked down to just college students or recent grads

Apprenticeships can be a fantastic opportunity for those looking for a career change. In a lot of cases questions like “what is your GPA?” or “what college did you attend?” aren’t really relevant during the application process. Some apprenticeships may not even require you to have a degree in that field at all. Of course, this all depends on what field you are getting into. A medical apprenticeship will likely require some formal education but a software development apprenticeship may not.

Apprenticeship Cons

More of a commitment

Like I mentioned before, apprenticeship programs tend to be more comprehensive and longer. Depending on the program, you may need to take more time than you are used to in order to sharpen your skill set.

Not for people who are still on the fence

By the time you start applying for apprenticeships, you should already be fairly confident that this career field is where you want to be. Apprenticeships tend to focus down on the aspects and requirements of a particular position, so it is not ideal for someone who is just wanting to have a high-level understanding of the job.

May not be super accommodating for those who are still full time students

Unlike internships, apprenticeship opportunities may not fall neatly within the summer break months. It’s possible that the apprenticeship will take place in the middle of the school year and you will have to consider taking a semester of school off to pursue the apprenticeship.

Wrap up

I would like to stress one last time that every internship and apprenticeship is different depending on the field and the company. Regardless, you should definitely consider these factors when you begin applying for either kind of gig. At Crema, we offer both! And both types of programs are fully hands-on, comprehensive, and pay competitive wages.

If you’re interested in the digital product space, keep an eye out for applications on our career page. Internships are held during the summer and apprenticeships run year round.

Good luck on your search and happy hunting!